It is well known that the gruesome Holey Artisan Bakery attack last July was carried out by five terrorists. After the arrest of suspected militant Aslam Hossain Rashed alias Rash, police said he was the sixth attacker who never made it to the cafe.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime (CTTC) unit’s chief Monirul Islam made the claim on Saturday, saying: “The New JMB, a new faction of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), had primarily designed the Gulshan cafe attack to be carried out by their well-trained members.”
“Rashed was initially in the group, but dropped at the last moment,” he said.
In primary interrogation, Rashed, who used to maintain close ties with Tamim, Marjan, Rajib Gandhi and some other militants, said he had become upset on hearing the news of his name being removed from the attackers’ list.
Learning about the development, he had told Tamim Chowdhury, the first chief of New JMB, that he wanted to be Jannati ( a resident of heaven) by being Shaheed (martyr) through the attack.
As a member of the militant group’s recce team, he supplied arms and looked after the five Gulshan attackers. Tamim used to praise him for his dedication and loyalty to the organisation, police said.
“Militants – Chhoto Mizan and Hadisur Rahman Sagar – had brought the firearms and grenades used in the Holey Artisan attack to their Shewrapara hideout,” another CTTC official said, preferring anonymity.
“Nurul Islam Marjan, a New JMB’s top leader killed on January 1, and Rashed received the consignment and took it to a house in Bashundhara Residential Area where he used to stay the five attackers,” he added.
“He was involved in every stage of the attack. He had direct communication with the five terrorists and had arranged training for the attackers,” the CTTC official further said.
He also disclosed that militant Nibras Islam was assigned to contact the foreigners inside the upscale restaurant. Led by Rohan Imtiaz, the remaining three attackers – Meer Shamim Mubassher, Khairul Islam Payel and Shafiqul Islam Ujjal – were selected for the main attack as they were so desperate.
Meanwhile, the deceased New JMB leader, Tanvir Qaderi, also had good connection with Rashed while both were living quite closely at Azimpur. When CTTC conducted a drive at Azimpur, they left Quaderi’s family and decided to be scattered to avoid arrest.
After its Kalyanpur hideout was busted, the New JMB wanted to promote Rash as top-level, Monirul said, referring to the information divulged by other militants arrested earlier.
Tamim had written to Major Jahid, another top New JMB leader, about Rashed’s promotion, according to the CTTC chief.
Rashed had also been on good terms with Mainul Islam alias Musa, another chief of New JMB who was killed in Sylhet. At one stage, the militant group mulled on making Rashed the chief, but the incumbent head of New JMB Ayub Bacchu, who is still on the run, was given the charge instead.
The CTTC officials say the incident made Rash maintain psychological distance from Bachchu.
How a brilliant student became a militant
Rashed became radicalised after being exposed to militant propaganda videos online when he was a brilliant student of Rajshahi’s New Government Degree College.
He left home at the end of 2015 to join militancy, thus, reaching the next levels. He gradually earned the trust of Tamim Chowdhury. When he came to Dhaka, Tamim and Marjan supervised his exam.
They were elated at Rashed’s enthusiasm and knowledge and decided that he did not need the initial training that other new recruits required. Since then, he started living with the duo.
CTTC findings say Tamim put him in charge of their media and communications cell and looking after new recruits.
Rashed passed the SSC exams in 2013 from Rajshahi’s Naohata School before enrolling in the New Government Degree College. He went to a coaching centre to prepare for IELTS in 2014.
At that time, he used to watch videos of Ansarullah Bangla Team and al-Qaeda. Aiming to take part in "jihad," he approached a Rajshahi University student, who himself was a militant. Later, Rashed came to know another RU student, who inducted Rashed into the organisation.
Rashed said he first met Tamim Chowdhury and Abdus Samad alias Mamu alias Arif in February 2015 and left Rajshahi for Dhaka at Tamim’s order.
Training camp coordinator
Rash had trained the Gulshan attackers on how to hurl grenades. Rashed used to arrange training for the recruits and rented houses for them, among other things.
As a training coordinator of the training camps, containing five to six recruits and three trainers, his primary task was to receive new recruits who would travel to Dhaka and take them to training camps.
The new recruits were taught how to fire weapons and given lessons in militant ideology. Rashed knows a lot about IT and he used to open the IDs of the militants in various secret apps.”
Other than training, checking the family background of aspiring militants to verify if law enforcers were sending their men in disguise was also his task.
Rashed remanded as Gulshan attack charge-sheet on cards
Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate Nurunnahar Yasmin granted police six days to interrogate him after they sought a 10-day remand on Saturday. Rashed, 23, son of Abdus Salam from Naogaon, was arrested in Natore on Friday morning and later brought to Dhaka.
Police are now preparing the charge sheet in the Gulshan terrorist attack case after interrogating Rashed, said a senior police official.
Bangladesh witnessed its deadliest terror attack on July 1 last year when armed militants barged into the upscale restaurant, killing 22 people, including 17 foreigners and two policemen.
The five militants, all members of New JMB that expressed allegiance to IS, were killed after a 12-hour standoff.